Travel experts reveal the best places to visit in 2020

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Flores Island, an island of the Western group of the Azores. Image credit: tane-mahuta/iStock
Flores Island, an island of the Western group of the Azores. Image credit: tane-mahuta/iStock

The Azores, Portugal – A water playground

It was all eyes on Greece in 2019, with every Instagram feed seeming to sport a blue and white Grecian backdrop. But the team at travel agency Original Travel believe Portugal is where travelers will be heading for 2020. 

Original Travel co-founder Tom Barber said travelers should leave the mainland behind and travel to the volcanic archipelago of the Azores. 

Not only can adrenalin junkies can hike, bike, canoe and canyon their way around some jaw-dropping scenery,  but the volcanic schtick even stretches to the islands’ cooking, with the local casserole ‘cozido das furnas’, being cooked in a volcanic steam chamber,” he said.

“And then there’s the diving. It is without a doubt, the best in Europe. 

“Advanced divers are bound to see manta rays, blue sharks and even the super-elusive mako sharks.”

Japan – A new home for the Olympics

Still bathing in the success of its Rugby World Cup triumph, Japan is ready to host an even more prestigious sporting event – the Summer 2020 Olympics in Tokyo from 24 July to 9 August. 

To encourage visitors to join the party, Japan has eased visa requirements and introduced an even faster Bullet Train, which will reach speeds of 360 kilometers per hour.

Luxury hotels have also sprung up throughout the city including the new Tokyo Edition Toranomon and the Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo, created by celebrity designer Jean-Michael Gathy. 

Travel company Discova APAC General Manager Bruno Mammone said Japan ticks all the boxes for visitors. 

“There is a lot of culture, history, the food’s great, and thanks to the Bullet Train, the country is easy to get around,” he said. 

If it’s your first trip to Japan, Mammone recommended checking out Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto and be sure to do as the locals do and take a dip in a hot spring.

“There is one hot spring that overlooks Mount Fuji,” he said.

Ethiopia – A country on the rise

With a Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister and a travel economy that’s the fastest-growing in the world, it’s no surprise that Ethiopia is one of the hottest destinations for 2020.

World Expeditions UK & Europe manager Gordon Steer said a series of new developments were further boosting the country’s credentials as a tourist-friendly destination.

“Not only has the country seen the launch of a new terminal at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, but the (also the) introduction of an e-visa system and the opening of a series of new hotels,” he said.  

Ethiopia is a captivating destination and a land of contrasts – from the spectacular Simien Mountains, which are home to the endangered Ethiopian wolves, to the Danakil Depression that is considered one of the hottest places on Earth.

A rare and endangered Ethiopian wolf. Image credit: Dgwildlife/iStock
A rare and endangered Ethiopian wolf. Image credit: Dgwildlife/iStock

Then there’s the rich culture. You can visit the rock-hewn churches at Lalibela or the tribal groups of the Omo Valley and see how they have maintained the same way of life for centuries.

Kyrgyzstan – A historically rich country

Steeped in Silk Road history, this land of mountains, valleys, and grasslands will be a hotspot for travelers in 2020, according to luxury holiday company Lightfoot Travel. 

While its neighbor, Uzbekistan, has become a well-trodden path for holidaymakers, more adventurous travelers are looking towards the country of Kyrgyzstan. With the Issyk Kul Trail Network, which comprises 300 kilometers of trekkable routes between Kochkor and Karakol, Kyrgyzstan is ready to be explored. 

The Kyrgyz Republic is a land of nomads who value their centuries-old traditions. While you’re there, try your hand at building a yurt, trek past one of the country’s crystal-clear lakes or visit the Burana Tower, one of the last remaining remnants of the former Silk Road city of Balasagun.

Wherever you go, you’re sure to see an example of Kyrgyz hospitality. It’s legendary.

Mountain view in Kyrgyzstan. Image credit: Ozbalci/iStock
Mountain view in Kyrgyzstan. Image credit: Ozbalci/iStock

Sri Lanka – A jewel in the Indian Ocean

Sri Lanka is ready to throw open its doors once more. The Sri Lankan Government is showing gratitude to 2020 visitors by offering fee-free visas, cut-price airfares, and improving the highways to help you see as much of the country as possible.

Intrepid Travel CEO James Thornton said people are sure to want to return to this island hideaway as soon as possible. 

“Sri Lanka is a wonderfully diverse, fantastic destination and after a difficult year, lots of people will be wanting to get back there and experience the great diversity, wonderful food, and the people,” he said. 

Thornton said one of the best parts of the country was Galle. 

“It’s a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site where you’ve got the wonderful fort, some great food, lovely markets, and great beaches,” he said.

Fiji – An archipelago of authenticity

A sun-kissed island in the Fijian archipelago. Image credit: KieselUndStein/iStock
A sun-kissed island in the Fijian archipelago. Image credit: KieselUndStein/iStock

Travel tech company Expedia Partner Marketing Director Demi Kavaratzis said their guests were looking for authenticity in 2020 and for this reason, Fiji was on their radar. 

“People are looking for places that are raw and untapped,” Kavaratzis said.

“Nearby Vanuatu is also one of these places, it’s still very raw, still very authentic.” 

With 300 islands in the Fijian archipelago, you’ll want to set sail on a boat and go island hopping as soon as possible.

Spend the day discovering secluded coves, exploring coral reefs, or wildlife spotting as you trek across the islands. It was on one of these islands that they filmed Tom Hanks’ “Castaway”.

Sichuan, China – A giant panda park

A baby panda hangs in tree, in a nature reserve in Sichuan province, China. Image credit: Young777/iStock
A baby panda hangs in a tree in a nature reserve in Sichuan province, China. Image credit: Young777/iStock

Luxury travel agency Black Tomato co-founder Tom Marchant said the mountainous region of Sichuan will be the hottest destination next year thanks to it being the location of the new Giant Panda National Park.

In 2020, China will launch its first round of National Parks, designed to curb pollution and boost conservation. The first park will open in Sanjiangyuan in 2020, which is home to the snow leopards, followed by the Giant Panda National Park in Sichuan. 

Marchant said the Giant Panda National Park was expected to be three times the size of Yellowstone in the U.S. 

“When it opens, the Giant Panda National Park will connect 67 giant panda reserves spread across the southwestern province of Sichuan, which is home to over 80 percent of all wild panda,” he said. 

Israel – Embrace the wild

From the plethora of start-ups in Silicon Wadi, it’s clear that this country is undergoing a renaissance. 

Luxury travel agency Scott Dunn consultant Emilie Mounier said the company had seen a 60 percent increase in bookings to Israel, which is why it lists Israel as one of its trending destinations for 2020. 

“There are also now more flight connections to Israel from Europe and Asia, which makes this a newly popular destination,” she said. 

However, as much as Tel Aviv is a culinary hub and Jaffa a historical destination, the Scott Dunn team encourage you to travel further and embrace the wild side of Israel in the Negev Desert.

Among the dunes, you may be surprised to find lush vineyards, volcanic craters, and the Six Senses Shaharut resort that clings to a clifftop in the Arava valley.

Or if you fancy an unforgettable spa treatment, you can travel to the newly opened Milos Dead Sea Hotel, walk out onto the beach and into the mineral-infused Dead Sea.

Cape Town, South Africa – A chic coastal retreat

Forbes listed Cape Town as one of the hottest places to visit in 2020 and travel booking website Wego co-founder Craig Hewett is in agreement. 

After seeing a rise in interest from their guests for the South African capital, Hewett said he can see why it captures their interest. 

“It comes with history, beautiful landscapes, and a bustling nightlife,” Hewett said. 

“For history, there’s the Nelson Mandela Museum, for nature lovers there’s Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles Mountain Range, and the dining options are endless.” 

When travelers are not visiting the new nose-to-tail restaurant Viande helmed by celebrity chef Pete Goffe Wood or tucking into lauded vegan dishes at The Kind Kitchen, they’re hotfooting it to the Gorgeous George Hotel, one of the latest hideaways to join the Design Hotels group. 

If you have more time on your African adventure, you can also take a drive along the Garden Route.

Argentina – A once-in-a-lifetime event

If Argentina’s dramatic landscapes and vibrant capital aren’t enough to win you over, perhaps an astrological phenomenon will, according to the team at luxury travel agency Abercrombie & Kent.

On December 14, 2020, you’ll have the chance to view a total solar eclipse. Argentinian Patagonia is where serious travelers will want to be among the few to witness this rare, magical moment.

Being in the wilderness doesn’t mean having to leave every little luxury behind, particularly when famed eco-lodge group explora has opened explora Patagonia Argentina within Southern Patagonia’s Los Huemules nature reserve.

While very little has been released about the lodge, if the award-winning sister lodge in Chilean Patagonia is anything to go by, it will be more than worth the trek.


Claire Turrell

Freelance journalist Claire Turrell has lived and worked in London, Dubai, and Singapore. When she’s not busy writing, she is riding motorbikes off-road in Cambodia, diving in Oman or learning Muay Thai in Thailand.